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The masterpieces of troubled minds

November 01, 2005|From Associated Press

PARIS — Do artists have to be miserable to produce great art? A new exhibition in France suggests that a little inner darkness helps.

"Melancholy -- Genius and Insanity in the Western World," which has visitors lining up around the block at Paris' Grand Palais, is an extensive look at art from antiquity to the 21st century. It shows how troubled thoughts have inspired great painters, sculptors, philosophers and writers.

"Melancholy is not only negative," curator Gerard Regnier said in an interview. "On the contrary, it was a positive energy that gave strength and genius to great artists throughout Western civilization."

Among them: Picasso, Rodin, Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Edward Hopper, Goya, Delacroix and William Blake. Nearly 300 works are on display, including masterpieces on rare loan from museums and collectors.

"The goal is to show the public the complexity and variety and positiveness of melancholy," Regnier said.

The exhibition presents melancholy as a normal part of the human experience -- a frame of mind that travels like a wave. At its low, we call it depression, but the mood can be transient and at its height inspire greatness.

"I think people are amazed by the variety and richness of all these works," Regnier said. "It has nothing to do with sadness. It has to do with a moral of living, a moral of dealing with everyday life."

The show runs through Jan. 16 and then travels to Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie.

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